I know you have seen the amazing photographs of angelic white buildings topped with cerulean domes. They elicit immediate wanderlust and envy toward whoever is able to witness these majestic structures in person. My trip to Santorini, Greece was a dream come true. The island does not disappoint in its glorious landscape and architecture. Not only was the island beautiful but the people were extremely nice and welcoming. The pictures do not do the island justice, you must see it in person. I spent a glorious six days in Santorini and was able to explore some the most popular areas. There are so many things to do in Santorini during a stay on this magical island. Feel free to use this guide to help you plan a dream trip to Santorini, Greece.
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The Best Locations in Santorini:
Though Santorini is a relatively small island, there are tons of great lodging options ranging from Airbnb rentals to ultra luxurious hotel suites. The prospect can be a bit overwhelming but I am here to help. I will highlight three areas that I recommend you focus your search depending on your priorities.
I stayed in an amazing AirBnB rental on Kamari Beach (click here for $40 off your first AirBnB rental!). The apartment was right near the water and had an amazing view of both mountains and the Aegean Sea.
Kamari Beach is known for its black sand and is located on the southeast coast of the island. It has many beachfront restaurants and shops that offer all you need to have a relaxing beachfront vacation. During the summer months, Kamari also has an open air theater where you can catch a movie. If you are looking for a more laid-back vacation filled with beach-side lounging, I recommend staying in Kamari Beach.
Luxury Hotel Option:
- Mediterranean White – a 5-star hotel constructed in the traditional Aegean style featuring a garden and private beach.
Budget Hotel Options:
- Akis Hotel – conveniently located a 3-minute walk to the beach and close to a variety of restaurants.
- Chez Sophie – located a short 2-minute walk from the beach with rooms featuring a balcony with either mountain or sea views and some featuring a hot tub.
Thira is the capital of Santorini and is a centrally located on the island. Advantages of staying in Thira include easy access to other parts of the island given that buses to other areas of the island all pass through Thira, lots of shopping and dining options, and amazing sunset views. If you enjoy staying where the action is, then you will enjoy staying in Thira.
Many hotels in Thira feature amazing views of the caldera. See some great options for Thira below:
Luxury Hotel Options:
- Astro Palace Hotel and Suites– located a short walk from Thira, each room features a balcony with views of the Aegean Sea while some also feature a private pool.
- Lilium Santorini Villa – a boutique style hotel with not only extravagant furnishings but stunning views along with a host of spa services.
Budget Hotel Options:
- Villa Soula– recently renovated and built in the traditional Cycladic style located in close proximity to Thira.
- Sea of Aegeon – conveniently located in the center of Thira near popular attractions, each room features a balcony. If you plan to rent a car, this hotel also offers free private parking!
Oia is the most photographed village in Santorini. Most likely, when you envision Santorini, you are thinking of the famous village of Oia. This is not only the most picturesque corner of the island but also the most popular for tourist.
Oia is located on the northwest corner of Santorini and boasts some of the most memorable sunset views. Visitors to Oia can take advantage of a labyrinth of seemingly endless winding cobblestone streets flanked by local vendors and varied eateries. You could spend an entire day just aimlessly wandering the shops. Many decide to stay in Oia because they want to be surrounded by stunning views and take advantage of staying in the hub of tourism in Santorini.
Luxury Hotel Option:
- Andronis Boutique Hotel – feel as if you are living in a lavish traditional Santorini cave with a furnished balcony overlooking the caldera.
- Vrachia Studios – located about 2.5 miles from Oia, this hotel offers great views of the sea from a private balcony.
There are many options for traveling around the island including rental cars, public transportation, and for the more adventurous – hiking and ATVs.
I personally prefer to use the local public transportation when I travel. You not only save money but also get to interact more with the local residents.
Santorini has a pretty simple bus system that is centralized in Thira, the capital city. You can travel one way from the major tourist areas like Kamari Beach, Pyrgos, and Oia to Thira for €2. We were easily able to travel to Thira and Oia using the bus system and saved money by not needing to rent a car.
Fair warning, Santorini has very winding roads on steep cliffs with no guard rails. Be prepared for some harrowing rides when traveling around the island, no matter what you choose as your mode of transportation. The trip to Oia is especially difficult but well worth it, given the amazing views.
The food in Santorini was absolutely delicious and fresh. Additionally, most of the food is pretty healthy so you don’t have the guilt of eating terribly during vacation or the bloating that wrecks the beach body you worked so hard to create prior to your trip. Most restaurants serve traditional Greek foods along with fresh seafood and salads. Though most of the food is very healthy, I have to admit, I had gelato every single day during my trip.
I found that most restaurants are pretty casual and do not require reservations in advance. The waterfront restaurants tend to be more crowded so I would aim to go them during off peak hours to get a nice table by the water.
I was pleasantly surprised that the food was reasonably priced. I generally was able to get an appetizer and entree for around €20.
Be sure to try phyllo wrapped feta cheese topped with honey and sesame seeds (pictured below). Of course, you should get tzatziki dip at least once during your stay but be forewarned, you have to pay extra for pita bread.
Santorini Travel Tips:
- Pack light: There are two ways to reach the island: via ferry or plane, usually from Athens. I would pack light if you plan to fly into Santorini because the planes are pretty small and will likely have strict luggage weight restrictions.
- Visit during the shoulder season: Santorini is a very popular tourist destination, therefore it tends to be very crowded year-round. I traveled to Santorini in October and was able to avoid some inconveniences such as long wait times for restaurant seating. Additionally, lodging tends to be less expensive during the off-season.
- Just so you know…you should not flush any tissue down the toilets in Santorini to help prevent any plumbing issues on the island. Every restroom should have a trash can for you to dispose of your tissue. This is not a fun subject to discuss but want to make sure you are mentally prepared for that concept prior to travel there.
Make a trip to Santorini a reality by using this travel guide to help plan the trip of your dreams. Feel free to save for later and share!